In the world of college basketball, there’s no one who can quite hold a candle to Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s legendary coach. He has a staggering 1,127 wins under his belt, and he’s been head coach for 42 years.
However, Coach K didn’t get where he is today alone; his success also rests on the shoulders of men like Christian Laettner, who was one of the star players on Coach K’s legendary ’91-’92 team at Duke. Laettner recently sat down with Betway Insider to discuss his favourite memories with Coach K, and the results are sure to make you smile.
In the exclusive interview with Betway, Christian Laettner reflects on his time at Duke and discusses the retirement of Mike Krzyzewski.
“I loved everything he did,” Laettner said of his former coach. “He was intense, he was soft, he was hard. He was a great coach.”
Laettner’s career at Duke basketball is marked by his buzzer-beater shot against Kentucky to propel the Blue Devils into the Final Four in 1992, as well as his selection to the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
Laettner shared that he was flooded with memories of Coach K when asked about his favourite memory with the legendary coach. “I can’t pick out one thing,” he said.
“All I can say is that every day of the four-and-a-half years I was around him and having him coach me, it was just the greatest time. I loved everything he did. I loved when he was hard on us, I loved when he took us in the locker room and yelled at every one of us, I loved when he invited us over to his house for dinner and his wife made chocolate chip cookies. Even if we didn’t win two championships or go to four Final Fours when I was there, I still would have loved every second of it.”
In 1988, Duke was a basketball powerhouse on the rise. After being recruited by Coach K, Laettner says, “He didn’t really have to sell it to me much because I loved Duke and Duke was very hot.” At the time, Coach K was a young, intense, and very good coach. He had yet to win an NCAA championship when Laettner joined the team in 1988. Laettner dreamed of leading Duke to the Promised Land by winning the championship. “I wanted to take them over the tipping point,” he explains. “I wanted to be part of the team that got him to the Promised Land.”
That dream came true in 1992 when Duke won its first NCAA championship under Coach K. Since then, they’ve gone on to win four more NCAA championships under his leadership.
When asked if he thinks Duke will still be a powerhouse after Coach K retires, Laettner said: “It’s gonna be interesting to see how Jon Scheyer develops the program and keeps the program going along. I wish him the best, I hope we stay at the level they’ve been at for the last two or three decades, but I don’t know if that can be done.”
Coach K used to tell us all the time: “Fellas, if we lose, but we play the right way, I’ll still be happy and proud of you.” I think it all comes down to him, and he’s not going to be there anymore. So we’ll see if Jon Scheyer is an excellent coach.”
There’s no doubt that Coach K is a legend, but can Scheyer keep up the level at which Duke has played for decades? It’s hard to say.